Maintaining healthy blood pressure is important during (and after) the coronavirus pandemic.
With about one in three Australian adults having high blood pressure, many people will be needing to monitor their own blood pressure in isolation.
So it’s a great time to make sure you’re accurately measuring and optimally managing your blood pressure at home.
When it comes to blood pressure, home really is better
Blood pressure measurements taken at home are a better indication of your true blood pressure. They’re also a better indication of your risk of heart attack and stroke than measurements doctors take in their surgeries or in hospital.
Blood pressure readings by doctors are generally even higher than those measured by other health professionals, such as nurses.
Read more: Why we should measure our own blood pressure
This is due to the “white coat” effect, where a doctor’s presence can lead to your blood pressure (and heart rate) rising, something we’ve known about since the 1980s.
So today’s guidelines recommend doctors confirm someone has high blood pressure using methods outside the clinic.
The ideal method while in isolation is to measure your blood pressure using your own device.
How do I measure my blood pressure at home?
Your blood pressure can vary depending on whether you’re talking, exercising or under stress, or if there is a change in the temperature. It can also vary depending on your posture, whether you’ve just eaten, taken medication, drunk a coffee or smoked.
So it’s important to measure your blood pressure at home the correct way each time, otherwise your readings might be incorrect or misleading:
use a validated device, one that has been rigorously tested for accuracy. Most devices available in Australia have not been validated. You can check if yours is here. Use an upper arm device (not a wrist cuff or one you wear on a wristband) with a correct cuff size (within the range indicated on the cuff). If you don’t want to buy a device, you can hire or borrow one from some pharmacies and medical clinics
take measures at around the same time, morning and evening, over seven days (five day minimum). Measure before taking medication, food or exercise, and as advised by your doctor (for instance, before visiting the doctor or after a medication change)
don’t smoke or drink caffeine 30 minutes before measuring, and don’t measure if you’re uncomfortable, stressed or in pain
sit quietly for five minutes before measuring, without talking or distractions from other people or television
sit correctly, with feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed, upper arm bare, arm supported with cuff at heart level, and back supported.
Authors: James Sharman, Professor of Medical Research and Deputy Director, Menzies Institute for Medical Research., University of Tasmania